Last night we closed Tuesdays With Morrie, ending a run of performances designed to gradually bring our audiences back and to gently test the edges of what is safe, appropriate and celebratory. Our recent theatrical productions featured a one person show by Kevin Sievert, a two person comedy with Carrie Counihan and Ian Wisneski and most recently the return of Bill Fricke and Zach Lulloff in the dramatic favorite, Tuesdays With Morrie. Concerned about large casts in the transition out of Covid restrictions, these small cast shows turned out to be a wonderful vehicle to return to something like normal. It has been spectacular.
At the same time, this spring has created some room for new experiments with outside groups taking advantage of our smaller venue for their events. Both the Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra and The Masquers brought performances to The Forst Inn Arts Collective stage in May.
It has been a delight welcoming back our patrons, both new and familiar. One of the conversations many of us are having as we exit the long year of retreat in the face of the pandemic is what, exactly, is normal? Many of us have changed our routines and are considering the ways that we might want to change our routines as we return to a post-Covid world. The following is a little recap of some of the amazing things that both retreating and returning from Covid has allowed us to do here at The Forst Inn Arts Collective.
2020; A time to work on ourselves.
In the same way that many of us took the time to consider self-care and improvements (at the same time we looked at core elements of survival!) the Forst Inn was the beneficiary of some amazing facelifts and infrastructure work in 2020. An ensemble of volunteers too numerous to list were involved in projects that resulted in the refurbishing of the lounge, the pub, the sitting room, the booth, the kitchen, and the exterior of the building (although we would be remiss if we didn't mention Jim and John Stangel, Phillip Jindra and Nannette Macy). Briefly, we...
And 2020 wasn't a complete loss in terms of performances. Although attendance was necessarily limited we had some strong performances on the stage.
Tuesdays With Morrie opened on March 14 of 2020...and closed on March 14 of 2020. We brought it back for a few performances in June but we're delighted that it's returned to strong attendance this year.
The Dixie Swim Club also opened for a one day run in August of 2020, and it is coming back in August of this year to finish what it started!
Miracle on South Division Street miraculously managed to complete its six performance run in September though, again, attendance had to be very limited.
After that we were locked down tight. The Mistletoes had fun producing a new version of their holiday show that allowed video versions of its music in a range of interesting locations.
2021; A season of renewal
2021 has brought a renewed energy and vigor to the activities at The Forst.
An interesting development as a consequence of Covid has been a change in the options for food with our shows. The ways in which The Forst Inn shows are dinner theatre has a unique history. Ron Kaminski established The Forst Inn as a Little Sandwich Theatre and provided a light meal with the shows here. When the shows returned in 2017 we experimented with a range of catered and prepared appetizer offerings in a buffet format. With the elimination of buffets last year, we returned to the days of the Little Sandwich Theatre, offering an optional light meal with the purchase of a ticket for most events. Discovering that many patrons prefer the lower ticket price that comes with opting out of the meal, we are continuing that approach for 2021 while constantly seeking ways for the light meal to be attractive. Recently we've added a Charcuterie Board option for our shows and this has been very popular as it provides a more interesting food option for those that are interested in that option.
Starting off with three great shows!
Music is back as well!
The calendar wouldn't be complete without musical events both large and small.
The Forst Inn Sings series continues to grow and develop, and in May the singers performed music of the Beatles in two heavily attended performances. Layne Yost returns next weekend to finally perform their cancelled dates from May, 2020 and Hardbean and McHonzik opened the 2021 season with their St Patty's day extravaganza!
A new series of events kicked off on May 28 with the Roaring 20s Jazz night. This music series events features jazz, casino games and an appetizer buffet. Our next entry into this series is on July 30 and features the Water City Jazz Orchestra with vocalist Erin LaFond playing swinging 40s tunes.
We have also established Open Mic Mondays. These events start at 7:00 on the 2nd and 4th mondays of the month and our last night have almost 2 1/2 hours of music. We're hoping to expand the night with more variety including stand-up, poetry and story-telling.
One thing we are very excited about this year is having introduced a series of opening musical acts in the pub before events. For most of our shows we have a musical act playing for an hour before the performance. So far we've featured Erin LaFond, Joey O'Connor, Kyle Seidl, Dave Ehlert, Janiessa and Colin, Ethan and Sam, and Tessa and Phil.
The Future is Bright!
So, there it is; it was a hell of a year but we made it! 2021 is going to be fantastic and we have a long list of things we are looking forward to yet this year. Here's a few of them!
I almost forgot!
2020 brought Frances to the Forst. A stray from Green Bay, Frances was skeptical of all the people and activity in the building, but after a year of getting settled and claiming her territory, Frances has abandoned her reclusive ways and now can be found appearing after the shows in the pub to claim affection and attention. On Thursday night she contributed some improvised howling to the end of the climactic finale of Tuesdays With Morrie.
So, be well, get vaccinated, and come on out and visit us in Tisch Mills!